4 Must-Haves for a Hotel Tech Stack
Be Ready for Recovery in 2021
By Martin Reichenbach, Co-founder and COO at apaleo GmbH
During the COVID-19 crisis, technology has undoubtedly enabled us to stay safe, connected, stimulated, and productive in a way that would have been unimaginable, even 20 years ago. Inevitably, businesses will also need to transform their practices radically in order to adapt to the new world order, enable their employees to be even more productive in a significantly altered working environment, and exceed heightened expectations from their customers in order to remain competitive and relevant. While researching the white paper, Beyond COVID-19: How Hote Technology Can Drive Recovery, 4 key trends emerged as the keys to a successful recovery strategy.
In the hospitality industry, the challenges we face are more substantial than most. However, the opportunity for significant and meaningful transformation is great, given that many hotels have held back on technology investment and the industry is still largely dominated by legacy players with outdated capabilities.
There are a plethora of innovative solutions on the market that can make a significant contribution in these and other areas, but their progress has been hampered by the shackles of legacy systems. Hotels will often benefit from reviewing their entire tech stack in order to implement the above solutions effectively. The next generation of property management is cloud-native, self-service, fully open, instantly connectible, and offers "app stores" where third-party systems can be freely integrated and trialed.
Think about apps on your smartphone – you browse the options, download, connect to other apps, try it out, and then you keep it or try something else. Modern hotel technology vendors now also support this level of experience and self-onboarding. So what are the key criteria when it comes to selecting new tech?
1. API-centric, Cloud-Based
As noted in the 2020 Lodging Technology Study, "migrating to cloud-based systems is critical to future-proofing hotels. Hoteliers are shifting priorities for above-property solutions to revenue management and reservation systems. On-premise and legacy-based systems cannot integrate as easily as cloud-based systems." (Hospitality Technology Magazine - 2020 Lodging Technology Study)
To fully innovate without limitation, look for true cloud systems with open APIs. Better still, seek out "API-first" solutions to ensure unrestricted access to each and every feature or piece of logic in that system. This is essential to future proof your investment and to ensure the best possible integrations between your key systems. It will also allow those with access to the relevant skills to easily develop their own integrations, customizations, or applications, with support for full 2-way, real-time exchange of data. Productivity gains are also to be had by combining native features from multiple key systems into one seamless user interface for hotel staff.
2. Zero CapEx
"As the major legacy PMSs grew over the past decades, their feature lists grew alongside, which resulted in greater maintenance demands. Unsurprisingly, with costs increasing, their price tag also increased. Likewise, as more and more tech vendors looked to integrate with these PMS systems, demand pushed pricing for integrations up. The sector now finds itself in a situation where, according to many, costs have gotten out of hand. This stifles innovation, and hinders hoteliers in running their business efficiently." (Skift Research - The Hotel Property Management Systems Landscape 2020)
As Skift Research correctly identified, modern vendors' pricing models and the associated Total Cost of Ownership have witnessed a radical change in recent years. With true, API-centric solutions, the days of paying license fees, professional service efforts, and ongoing support charges for integration are in the past. In fact, upfront, one-time fees of any description should be challenged and scrutinized in an era where Software as a Service (SaaS) applications with zero Capital Expenditure (CapEx) models prevail.
Such SaaS models not only allow for more flexible contract terms, but also ensure that you are always using the most up-to-date version of the software. Changes in regulation and standards are constantly met and new features provided without the need for cost-prohibitive updates.
3. Control Your Destiny
Third, assess the extent to which you can manage systems independent of your vendor. While this might come as a shock to some, a system implementation should no longer require on-site handholding, submitting configuration documents to your vendor, or classroom training at the property. These practices were outdated even before COVID-19, but "self-service" will now be demanded as standard.
Ultimately, having full control over IT projects makes you the master of your own destiny. Each hotelier can define their personal "speed of innovation" by completing system setups independent of your vendor's schedule, activating integrations at the click of a button, and exploiting modern development and API environments to fully realize the capabilities of your tech stack.
Implement solutions that are self-service, putting the control in your hands (naturally, your vendor should be readily available to guide and support you remotely, so check that they have a structure in place to do this and that the service is included in your monthly subscription).
4. Demand the Smartphone Treatment
Finally, seek out vendors who provide a shopfront to explore the solutions on offer from integrated partners. Where feasible, modern systems should be easy to integrate and test in a meaningful way, without obligation or cost.
Today's smart technology vendors eliminate unnecessary workload for themselves and their customers. Integrations have to be reusable, something that has traditionally been a major challenge, requiring significant manual effort to make systems talk to each other. Modern solutions provide 1-click-connect capabilities and - again - put the innovative hotelier in the driver's seat.
"The ultimate functionality of a marketplace is a platform where integration partners can showcase their products, while hoteliers can access the platform and pick the integration that suits their needs. Where the marketplace comes into its own is the capability for hoteliers to instantly switch on a system while on the marketplace." (Skift Research - The Hotel Property Management Systems Landscape 2020)
In short, there may never be a better time to review your tech stack. With time to dedicate to the process, you can take steps to implement a suite of new solutions that will make you more agile and independent, lower your costs, improve efficiency and deliver impressive guest service levels that are consistent with a new set of expectations and demands.
Martin ReichenbachMore from Martin Reichenbach
apaleo is the open cloud platform to help build agile accommodation businesses. All types of properties - from serviced apartments to hotel chains - rely on apaleo's APIs and community to create digital experiences for their guests and staff. Instantly connect the leading hospitality apps to the apaleo interface or use open APIs for unlimited customization possibilities.